Red grouper

This red grouper was hauled up from 120 feet of water and is showing a bit of barotrauma (note the bulging eyes). Doesn’t matter — this one went right in the fishbox.

Grouper sandwiches are a very popular restaurant item here in Florida. I think they’re one the main reason many newbie anglers seem to think our Gulf waters are just loaded with grouper. Well, bad news on two fronts: There are grouper, but you usually have to go out deep to get them. And those “grouper” sandwiches are usually tilapia or swai.

Reef fish live in the Gulf, but not everywhere — generally, you’ll find them only near structure. Hard limestone bottom, springs, ledges, wrecked boats or planes, coral-encrusted rubble and artificial reefs will all hold these fish. Most reef fish stay near the bottom; some, like amberjack and barracuda, prefer to live in the open water above the reef itself. To legally take most reef fish, you must use a non-offset circle hook and have a dehooking tool available.


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